Disinformation is nothing new in our social-media saturated world. But with COVID-19, the confluence of disinformation, distrust, and a lack of data created a deadly situation.

With the mission to improve the health of the community and the world by setting the standard of excellence in medical education, research, and clinical care, Johns Hopkins Medicine educates medical students, scientists, health care professionals, and the public; conducts biomedical research; and provides patient-centered medicine to prevent, diagnose, and treat human illness.

Given their mission, Johns Hopkins Medicine desired to quickly adapt their online presence to be a center for relevant and accurate COVID-19 information. And the campaign they created in response was so good it earned them two finalist designations in the 2021 Digiday Content Marketing Awards – for Best Campaign Pivot and Most Effective/Measurable Campaign.

Best campaign pivot

Before the pandemic, Johns Hopkins Medicine’s content strategy was largely focused on search engine optimization (SEO). Through keyword research and other SEO strategies, the content team was able to determine what people were interested in and tailor their content accordingly.

But with the onset of the pandemic, things changed. Due to the novelty of COVID-19, there simply wasn’t search history data available. The team quickly pivoted. Even without the data they were used to relying on, they knew COVID-19 was momentous and started creating content around it in January 2020, when it was merely a blip on most people’s radars.

To ensure the content they produced was timely, they embraced an agile workflow strategy. Each day, the communications and marketing departments held short meetings where all members met with various subject-matter specialists — including infectious disease, emergency medicine, and other experts — to plan content focused on everything from symptoms to prevention best practices.

The pivot paid off. By March 2020, their site was performing incredibly well in the search engine results pages (SERPs) around COVID-19, with searches such as “What is coronavirus” and “differences between COVID and flu symptoms” returning Johns Hopkins Medicine’s content in the first organic positions.

A novel tool for measurable results

Using Sitecore’s solutions, Johns Hopkins Medicine was able to quickly launch its COVID-19 self-checker — an online tool enabling people to check themselves for coronavirus symptoms and discover various means of protection. Johns Hopkins Medicine also expanded their content strategy to provide personalized web experiences.

This was especially timely for those concerned about conditions that might be exacerbated by the disease. By personalizing visitor experiences, Johns Hopkins Medicine was able to meet individual visitors’ needs with content relating to pre-existing conditions, for example, or tips for keeping children safe and healthy. In addition to creating trustworthy and informative content, they also ensured their content tracked alongside people’s ongoing concerns and was accessible to all.

In addition to achieving and maintaining the first organic position in many SERPs, the team’s content strategy paid off in other powerful ways: within 7 months, 38 million people had accessed the organization’s COVID content, with 1 million page views per day on average during the first months of the pandemic.

Improving audience engagement has always been a goal of the organization since a huge part of their mission is to inform. But this is a means to an end — the end being better health and care. As more people grow to trust Johns Hopkins Medicine for COVID-19 information, they also return to explore content on other aspects of health. Whether techniques for getting better sleep or information on healthy eating, visitors can easily branch out from their engagement with COVID-19 content to find broader health information.

We’re consistently impressed by the many ways our clients put our solutions to work to solve business challenges, connect with customers in new ways, and even help make all of us safer in the midst of an on-going global pandemic. See all the finalists and learn more about the Digiday Content Marketing Awards here.


Dan Olson is the Senior Copywriter at Sitecore. Follow him on LinkedIn